Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Alluring Secrets by Lynne Connolly

Secrets Trilogy, Book 2

Now that his best friend is blissfully married, Severus Granville, Earl of Swithland, finds himself dealing with a wholly unfamiliar urge—to settle down and produce an heir. But among the bevy of beauties vying for his attention, none hold his interest except for one: Penelope. Clumsy, intelligent, appealing Penelope is the one woman with whom he could escape…but she’s expected to marry another.

Afraid she’ll be labeled an unmarriageable bluestocking, Penelope’s family forces her to go without her badly needed spectacles in public, and to hide her intelligence. Though she has loved Severus for years, the best she can hope for is a loveless union with a perfectly suitable—and perfectly boring—cousin. Except Severus seems to have changed his mind.

Hours spent in his rooftop observatory leads to a passion neither of them expected. Yet just as their eyes are opened to the possibility of lasting love, Penelope is snatched away, a pawn in a plot to destroy her family and make her a slave to a man she hardly knows.

If he wants to keep his heart’s treasure, Severus will have to fight for her with everything within him—mind, body and soul.

After reading book 1 and getting to know a little about Severus, I never dreamed he’d be the marrying kind—never dreamed he’d be a one-woman man either. How wrong could I be! Severus wants to settle down now he’s seen how happy his long-time friend, Nick, has been since he married the love of his life. So, he invites many people to his home in order to select a bride and announce his intention to marry one of them—except none of them appeal. They would have years ago, even a few months ago, but he sees them for who they really are now: women intent on grasping the title that would come with marrying him. They want the prestige, not him.

Severus has known Penelope for years—she’s his sister’s friend. He’d never looked at her in that way before, but now he sees her in a totally different light. He finds out her secret—that she wears spectacles in private, and that she comes across in society as a clumsy, sometimes aloof woman because she can’t see where she’s going very well or who she’s talking to until she’s up close to them.

He loves star-gazing and allows her into this part of his world after he discovers she’s a whizz with stocks, something women didn’t participate in. With Penelope’s secret longing for Severus kept under wraps, she refuses to believe he could possibly be interested in her. But interested he is. With the presence of the other eligible women in the house, all of them snidey little [enter nasty name of your choice here], all beautiful, Penelope can’t imagine Severus would pick her as his bride over them.

The most touching part for me was Severus being the kind of man who shirked what society thought and encouraged Penelope to wear her glasses in public. And, the best part, as with all Ms Connolly’s Regencies, is the crime/mystery that needs solving. I adore these and join the cast in getting to the root of the problem.

The occasional spark of brilliance showed where the breeze ruffled its surface.

…curling around his legs before settling in well-ordered folds.

It gleamed in the moonlight through the broad windows…

She repressed a shudder. (Me too!)

I read this book very quickly because once I start a Regency by Ms Connolly I’m reluctant to put it down. Superb imagery, as usual, superb dialogue and plot, and a cast of characters who all slot very nicely into the book without ever seeming as though they don’t belong or are superfluous. I loved all of them, even those I enjoyed disliking. And that’s another thing. Ms Connolly has a brilliant knack of creating a character who will make your skin crawl and others who will get you so annoyed you want to grab hold of them and shake some niceness into them. Get ready to wonder who is the baddie and who is out to hurt Severus and Penelope, because this plot is one that had my mind ticking, my blood boiling, and the shudders going through me. Overall? Fabulous!

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